This, or a variation of it, is one of the most common questions we receive at Magic & Wishes - what is the 'best age' and is my child too old or too young. Our answer is always the same - there really is no bad time to take them and there are advantages for visiting at every age.
But there are somethings you may wish to consider when making your decision as to the 'best age' to take your kids to Walt Disney World.
The cost varies with age
The best age to take kids to Walt Disney World may simply come down to price, because the age of your children will have an impact on the cost of your holiday in a couple of ways.
A big chunk of the cost of a Disney holiday to Orlando, is the flights. So if price is a factor, know that a child under the age of 2 will be considered an infant - their flight will cost you a lot less. But they don't get their own seat, meaning a nine hour flight with your nearly-2-year-old in your lap. Between the ages of 2 and 11 is typically counted as a child and 12-15 is a young adult - so your teenager will cost you more to fly and you may wish to consider that trip a bit sooner.
The other big cost factor that varies with age, is Disney itself. Under 3s are considered 'Guests of Mickey Mouse' - meaning you pay for very little for them - you won't need a ticket to the parks for a 2 year old and you won't need to purchase them a Dining Plan. They just accompany you into the parks and can 'eat off your plate' when dining - which is particularly great when it comes to buffets! However in Walt Disney World, kids are classed as 'adults' from the age of 10 - meaning you pay more in park tickets and dining for your 10 year old than you do your 9 year old.
And of course, as with any holiday, it is also considerably more expensive outside of school holidays - so taking them before they turn 5 may also be something to consider.
Finally, it is worth knowing that Disney gets more expensive every year. There is an increase in the cost of tickets and room rates every year - so the longer you leave it, the more expensive it is likely to be.
So purely based on cost, you'll find an increase at each of the following ages brackets, due to either Walt Disney World, or the flights: 0-1 < 2 < 3-9 < 10-11 < 12-15.
If you're only going once...
It is pretty certain that your kids are going to love a trip to Walt Disney World, no matter when you take them. But if you only plan to take them the once, you obviously want to maximise that. So the best age to take kids to Walt Disney World becomes a bit of a balance between being young enough to believe in the magic, and being old/tall enough to ride everything and remember it all in the future.
If you strongly believe that you will only make the trip once, then we'd perhaps consider waiting until your youngest is around 7. By that point they are more likely to:
- be tall enough to ride all the rides (more of an issue at Universal than Disney)
- be able to stay up a bit later for the fireworks and night-time shows - without ruining the rest of the trip with meltdowns due to over tiredness
- depending on the time of year that you're going, they should be able to cope with the heat better than a toddler, for example
- remember it all in the future
But hopefully they would still believe in at least some of the magic!
Is Disney World 'worth it' for little kids?
A common statement we hear is that it is not 'worth' taking kids when they are under the age of 5/6 because they won't remember it. And we couldn't disagree more. My daughter's first trip to a Disney park was to Disneyland Paris, just before she turned two, followed by Disney World when she was 2 and half, because she loved it so much in Paris. And both trips were incredible. There is nothing quite like seeing your child oozing pure unadulterated excitement at seeing their favourite characters in the flesh, at an age when seeing is believing. The magic is entirely real to them. She still talks about when Chip stole her shoes (during dinner at Disneyland Paris) and showing Doc McStuffins her stethoscope (Hollywood Studios). She had her very first haircut in Harmony Barbershop on Mainstreet - and we have a certificate and some 'first haircut' embroidered Mickey ears to commemorate it. One of my husband's favourite memories is seeing her standing up in her cot in the hotel, just so excited to start the day. Mine is the look of pure adoration she gave to Elsa when she met her.
You know what? She might not remember these trips when she's a lot older - but she had an amazing time, at the time - and we most definitely will remember them. So if it is in your power, take your little ones and make some memories. You won't regret it.